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Testing task in first round for Windsor's Karola Bejenaru

By John Flack

Karola Bejenaru has landed a tough draw as she prepares for today's first round clash at the $10,000 tournament in Lleida in Spain after coming through qualifying with another impressive victory.

After dropping just four games in her opening win she again won in straight sets as she raced to a 6-2, 6-4 success over Swedish player Sirri Victorsson.

However, the first round draw was not kind to the 17-year-old Windsor player who now faces eighth seed Justin Ozga.

The 26-year-old German is a vastly experienced player and can boast a massive 355 matches at this level. She has won two titles in similar tournaments and has a career high ranking of 259 although she is now 595 on the list.

However Karola is confident she can give a good account of herself and perhaps pull off an upset.

"I am looking forward to it as it's the first time I have got through to a first round draw in such a tournament," she said.

"I will be trying my best to win and there is no pressure on me because she will be expected to beat me. I have been playing well all week and I feel I have been improving with every match so far in this tournament."

Bejenaru's coach Przemek Stec is also confident that the Romanian is capable of upsetting the form book.

"She is playing really well but, of course, this will be a step up in class," said the Polish-born Windsor coach.

"But that's not to say she is not capable of beating Ozga because I genuinely believe it is possible.

"At this level qualifiers, like Karola, can beat seeded players and the gap is not huge in terms of ability.

"It's as much about self-belief as anything else and if Karola goes out there believing she can win and with the right mental attitude then she can do it.

"One thing is for sure though – there will be no pressure on her as she won't be the favourite so, hopefully, she can play to her potential and that's all we can ask of her."

Goran Ivanisevic gave Marin Cilic the "little kick" that helped him break through the wall to become a grand slam champion.

The Croatian's 6-3 6-3 6-3 victory over Kei Nishikori in the US Open final made him the most unexpected male slam winner in more than a decade.

Arguably the last man to pull a rabbit out of a hat in such a way was Ivanisevic himself at Wimbledon in 2001.

Not many people gave Cilic a chance at all, and those who did when he was a prodigious teenager had no doubt wavered in the intervening years.

Ivanisevic always believed in Cilic and recommended his old coach, Bob Brett, to his countryman when he was a teenager.

That relationship broke down last year and it was to Ivanisevic whom Cilic turned, with spectacular results.

"The first time I saw him I knew he was special," said Ivanisevic. "When he was working with Bob, when he made semis at the Australian Open, but there was always somehow a little bit of a wall in front of him.

"A thin wall but sometimes these thin walls can be very thick walls. You can't break through. And now he just went through the wall. Through the thick wall and he didn't look back."

Belfast Telegraph

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